EDF General Counsel Vickie Patton reveals how the state of Texas and Big Coal are prime movers behind a legal campaign attacking EPA's greenhouse gas pollution cuts for smokestacks and tailpipes.
On December 10, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia rejected a request that it stay the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from implementing some common sense rules to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and its allies worked for months to help defeat that request. Our allies included the Attorneys General of 19 states, numerous business organizations, and other environmental groups like Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club, and Earthjustice.
The attempt to shackle EPA was supported by the Coalition for Responsible Regulation, the state of Texas, and powerful groups like the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association. They are the prime movers behind a legal campaign to invalidate every national greenhouse gas pollution control measure that has been adopted to date.
Last year, in December 2009, an attorney representing the Coalition for Responsible Regulation sent an email to Texas government officials. EDF obtained that email [PDF] through the Texas Open Records Act. The email encouraged a legal challenge to EPA authority under the Clean Air Act, and requested that Texas and the Coalition:
"begin the coordination process"
But who, or what, is the Coalition for Responsible Regulation? It appears to be closely linked to the largest private owner of coal reserves in the country.
The Coalition's purpose, according to its articles of formation, is:
“To pursue such administrative and judicial avenues as appropriate to ensure that the Clean Air Act is properly applied to greenhouse gases.”
But “properly applied,” in this instance, means NOT applying our clean air laws to greenhouse gas pollution.
State records show that all three members of the Coalition’s board of directors share the same Houston address as the Quintana Minerals Corporation – though none of the Coalition’s incorporating papers mention the company. Bloomberg Businessweek says that one of those members, Charles H. Kerr, has been an executive with the Quintana Minerals Corporation since 1983.
Quintana Minerals is owned by Corbin Robertson Jr. and his family. It is the nation’s largest private holder of coal reserves.
Robertson is a contributor to Texas politicians like Gov. Rick Perry, Attorney General Gregory Abbott and U.S. Rep. Joe Barton (who memorably apologized to BP for the White House's investigation of the Gulf oil spill) — politicians who are committed to hobbling an EPA that uses rigorous science to regulate harmful pollution.
According to the Washington Post, Robertson has also joined forces with H. Leighton Steward (a well-known climate change denier) to campaign against climate science through two peculiarly named pressure groups — "CO2 is Green" and "Plants Need CO2."
The Appeals Court ruling on December 10 temporarily freed EPA to fulfill its mandate, under the Clean Air Act, to protect human health and the environment by cutting harmful forms of pollution. EPA will start by limiting greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants and factories on January 2.
Also, EPA's clean car standards will require lower emissions from new automobiles, which will get better mileage as a result. The new standards will cut America's oil consumption and help the auto industry grow. American automakers, in their own filing to the court, said the attempt to stop EPA from implementing their new standards:
“would result in tremendous hardship” to the entire industry.
But sensible EPA actions like these are under continuing legal (and, with the new Congress, legislative) threat from the Coalition and its allies.
In fact, Texas has already jumped to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, in New Orleans, to again ask for an immediate stay on implementation of EPA’s greenhouse gas rules. EDF and its allies are moving quickly to oppose this request.